The History of Taylor County Chapter Three-Hundred-Eighteen

Circus Sues Grafton

Gentry’s Famous Dog and Pony Show, which has for some years exhibited on the old Fairgrounds came to Grafton on June 6,1905. The town council warned the management of the unsafe conditions of the wooden bridged that spanned Berkeley Creek and refused to assume any responsibility in case of accident to the show property in passing over the bridge. The agent, it is said, told the members of council the show carried a bridge inspector who would satisfy himself as to its condition. The local agent fir Colonel John T. McGraw, who at the time was the owner of the land it is also said, assured the agent of the soundness of the structure and the crossing was safely made and the show gave the afternoon and night performances. 

At the close of the night exhibition, the show began loading and one of the heavily loaded wagons in attempting to cross the bridge broke through the flimsy structure precipitating the wagon, driver and horses onto the bed of the creek below, seriously injuring the driver and crippling the horses so badly they were shot. The driver was placed in the city hospital and gradually recovered, and the rest of the show moved over the river road and loaded at Fetterman. 

The management asked damaged from the town for the destruction of their property, which Mayor Lowther and the council refused to consider saying, “The advance agent of the show was duly notified of the unsafe conditions of the bridge and disclaiming any responsibility in the manner of the wreckage of the show property, after being told the show carried an inspector of bridges and if found unsafe it would not be used for passage to the grounds.” 

Just who was at fault in the matter is not clear as the management entered suit in the Taylor County Court through Dent and Sent who offered to compromise for the sum of $2,500 for the loss of property, which the mayor and council refused to entertain. The suit hung fire in the court for some years and was finally settled by the town. 

To provide revenue lost by the defeat of the saloon license at the town election, council raised the water rates to such extent many protests were heard from the consumers and caused Captain George M. Whitescarver to sue out an injunction against the new water tariff fixed by the town council. 

Councilman Wilkinson on July 10,1905, in council offered the following resolution: 

Whereas, the revenues of the town, heretofore available for current expenses during the summer months, which were derived from licenses, are not this year available; and, 

Whereas, the year’s taxes will not be available until late next fall; and, 

Whereas the revenue from the water plant, the only other source of revenue under the old schedule of rates, were insufficient to maintain the expenses of operating the water and light plants; and, 

Whereas proceedings in court have interfered with the collections of water rents under the new schedule, and there being no other source of revenue; therefore, be it, 

Resolved be the common council of the City of Grafton that the superintendent of waterworks and electric light plant be and is, hereby instructed to suspend the operation of the light plant until the water committee notifies him of sufficient funds paid into their hands to sustain the expense of operating both plants. Should insufficient funds be paid into their hands at the end of the present quarter the superintendent shall close both plants when all funds are exhausted. Sufficient revenue must have been paid into the water and light fund to operate both plants for as far as known neither were shut down for lack of funds, and only in case breakdown of the machinery have either plant failed to function for any length of time in all the years of their installation. 

Henry J. Mugler, prominent hardware merchant and longtime resident died at his home on Wilford Street July 22,1905. He was a native of the Alsace-Lorraine province of France that was ceded to Germany after the War of 1871. He and an older brother Phillip left their native France at the time of the uprising that dethroned the emperor and made the nation a republic. At the outbreak of the Civil War, he enlisted as a drummer under Sherifan and later served under Captain Ord in the Indian uprising in the far west. During his soldier days he learned the English language and became fluent in the use of the language of his adopted country. After the close of the war, he learned and became a skilled house painter and decorator and was in the employ of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad prior to establishing his own business in Grafton. A handsome man of military cape instead of an overcoat. Thrice married, he gave his children French names, his oldest son Henri, the second son Pierre and the daughters Marie Hortense, Eugenie Estelle, Grace Lorraine and Camille Louise. In 1870 he established a paint and wallpaper business in the Trehern building that stood in the site of the Opera House and added a line of hardware and his place of business was marked by a large golden anvil suspended above his door. 

During the big fire of July 5,1887, he lost much of his stock in that awful conflagration, for what was salvaged he arranged with George Brinkman for the use of part of the theatre for a store room until Mr. Brinkman had the new Opera House completed and then moved his stock into one of the rooms on the street floor where he continued business for some 12 years and then returned. He was affiliated with the Masonic order, who conducted the last rites in Bluemont Cemetery. 


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